12/15/2016

Art Conference 2017 - First Meeting!

 
A gathering in our apartment to talk about the "BROKEN" arts conference two months ago and come up with ideas for next year. What should the theme be? Who should the speakers be? What artwork should be displayed? (Looks like we're going to have a live tea ceremony!) I loved seeing everyone so engaged! These conferences have truly moved beyond me to become community led.

12/01/2016

"BROKEN" Arts Conference

Our arts conference on October 15, 2016 was a success in so many ways! 183 people from the community came. The talks, performances, and pieces affected people deeply. People are still talking about it two months later. We are looking forward to next year's conference in October!






6/12/2016

Ongoing needs in Kumamoto

 
For the charity concert in Sendai today, I will report on the current situation in Kumamoto. Though unable to visit recently, members of our Tokyo church network or missionary agency have continued to go about every two weeks, following up on needs and new contacts.

CURRENT SITUATION

-Aftershocks less frequent. Fear abating.
-Many need to move but not enough apartments available. Many still live in temporary housing, shelters, or cars.
-Heat making life in shelters unbearable.
-City hall or hospital employees overworked. Many yet to clean and fix own homes.
-Children showing signs of emotional trauma related to earthquake, such as fear of homes or dark areas and worsened mental state exhibited through uncontrollable anger and cursing.
-Reports of food poisoning from cookouts at shelters and hospitals have shut down that work in many places, leaving concerts the main path for relationship building, heart care, and other help. (See "CONNECTING" below.)
-Kyushu Christ Disaster Support Center at Harvest Church building condemned. Headquarters moved to nearby church building with ample parking and facilities, greatly helping relief effort.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!

Japanese government responding to widespread need but not equipped to meet needs of individuals or neighborhoods, making individuals volunteers, NPOs, and church networks essential.

DEBRIS REMOVAL - The government cannot remove debris from individual homes and apartments. Some are unable to do it themselves. Often multiple visits by volunteers are needed.

CONNECTING - Many do not know how to receive financial remuneration and other help offered through city hall, NPO's, and church networks. Volunteers pass on news of services available and get forms submitted when necessary.

HEART CARE - Cafes, counseling, concerts, etc. It is difficult for people in Kyushu to show weakness to neighbors. This is true throughout Japan but is strongest in Kyushu, because Christian persecution hit here the strongest. Neighborhoods were broken into groups of five families. Infractions of the law brought punishment, in some cases death, to the whole group. Culture of not sharing true self continues today.

CHILDREN - Programs for children needed!

5/29/2016

White pieces of paper...

(A journal entry by 26-year-old pianist Ellie Honea, who works with us in Tokyo and traveled with us to shelters in Kumamoto.)

White pieces of paper...

I pick them off my shirt, which no longer smells of smoke from outdoor grills or looks muddy from evacuation centers on a rainy morning. Clean, new, fresh...and covered in tiny bits of clean white paper. Not a smudge of ink left. Not a trace of the hastily written note and phone number to remind me of those 10 digits. The bits of paper are like fallen cherry blossoms, a reminder of our fleeting moment of friendship and connection.

I met Narita-san at the top of the stairs as if waiting for me. She gave a grateful sigh when she saw what I was carrying. I had just walked down the hallway of an elementary school-turned-evacuation-center, arms loaded with thin insulated silver mats. The mats are not much, but certainly more comfortable then the thin cardboard sheets or single tarps I see being used as beds in the classrooms around me.

Narita-san quickly guided me through a maze of staircases and hallways to areas of greatest need, sharing her story as we went. Her house was okay, she told me, so she's not staying at the shelter but volunteers as able. Her neighbor's house was marked with a bright red "Don't enter! Condemned!" sign, and she wears a hard hat when she leaves the house, afraid aftershocks will send chunks of debris raining down on her. Her family was also fine, she told me. Her daughter lives in Tokyo, and her grandson just started university. Out of the worry and hurry comes a smile, unique to proud grandparents everywhere.

We stop to chat with two young girls, sitting on a table with legs swinging. I hope this time will stick in their memories as a fun camp-out, where school was cancelled and instead had sleepovers with friends for weeks on end. Narita-san and the girls told me about the school's music teacher, who often serenades students from the piano during lunch time. "Music is wonderful, isn't it?" Actually, I told them, it so happens that our team has three musicians and our van is packed with a violin, keyboard, and portable pipe organ! Maybe we also could play a concert during lunch time?

Narita-san talked with the shelter leader, and an hour later the gym became a concert hall, with pop-tents serving as prime box seats. I silently prayed over the room as rhythms and melodies of Bach and Vivaldi filled cracks of stress on worried faces and pushed out unspoken fears. After the concert, I again found Narita-san, who seemed to share my feeling that we were instantly old friends. We exchanged phone numbers, and I told her to call me if she ever came to Tokyo.

I wonder if she will. I wonder if my phone number is still there in her folder. Even if our relationship is over like this year's cherry blossom viewing, maybe our encounter made as much an impact on her as it had on me. Maybe the encounter will, like cherry blossoms, be all the more precious for its brevity. Maybe she will think back and remember those Christians who floated in with love flowing from black and white keys and vibrating violin strings...